Hello and Welcome to Phonics and Homeschooling. The resources for teach children at home. A method of teaching reading in which people learn to associate letters with the speech sounds they represent, rather than learning to recognize the whole word as a unit. Also find information about children education at home or Homeschooling.

History and controversy

Because of the complexity of the English alphabetic structure, more than a century of debate has occurred over whether English phonics ought to be taught at all. Beginning in the mid 19th century, some American educators, prominently Horace Mann, argued this point precisely. This led to the commonly used "look-say" approach ensconced in the "Dick and Jane" readers popular in the mid-20th century. Beginning in the 1950's, however, phonics resurfaced as a method of teaching reading. Spurred by Rudolph Flesch's polarizing, bombastic criticism of the absence of phonics instruction--particularly in his popular book, Why Johnny Can't Read--phonics resurfaced, but--owing to Flesch's polemical approach--was considered a product of a politicized way of educational thinking. The popularity of phonics rose, but many educators associated it with "back to basics" pedagogy and eschewed it.

In the 1980s, the "whole language" approach to reading further polarized the debate in the United States. Whole language instruction was predicated on the principle that children could learn to read given (a) proper motivation, (b) access to quality literature, (c) many reading opportunities, (d) focus on meaning, and (e) instruction to help students use meaning clues to determine the pronunciation of unknown words. For some advocates of whole language, phonics was the antithesis of this emphasis on getting at the meaning. Parsing words into small chunks and reassembling them had no connection to the ideas the author wanted to convey. Much of the whole language theory easily dovetailed with phonics, but the whole language emphasis on understanding words through context and focusing only a little on the sounds (usually the alphabet consonants and the short vowels) could not be reconciled with the phonics emphasis on individual sound-symbol correspondences. Thus, a false dichotomy between the whole language approach and phonics emerged in the United States, leading to intense debate and ultimately to a Congressionally-commissioned book and two government-funded panels focused on phonics.

The book, Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print (Adams, 1990), argued that phonics was an effective way for students to learn to read. Adams argued strongly that both the phonics and the whole language advocates were right. Phonics was an effective way to teach students the alphabetic code. By learning the alphabetic code early, students could quickly free up mental energy they had used to word analysis and devote this mental effort to meaning, leading to stronger comprehension earlier in elementary education. This result matched the goal of whole language instruction while the means supported the advocates of phonics.

The argument, eventually known as "the Great Debate" continued unabated. The National Research Council re-examined the question of phonics (among other questions in education) and published the results of its Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, Burns, and Griffin, 1998). The National Research Council's findings matched those of Adams. Phonics was a very effective way to teach children to read, more effective than what was known as the "embedded phonics" approach of whole language (where phonics was taught opportunistically in the context of literature). They found that phonics must be systematic (following a sequence of increasingly challenging phonics patterns) and explicit (teaching students precisely how the patterns worked, i.e., "this is b, it stands for the /b/ sound").

The final attempt to determine what approach made the most sense was undertaken by the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2001), which examined quantitative research studies on phonics (as well as other areas of reading instruction). Their meta-analysis of hundreds of studies confirmed the findings of the National Research Council: phonics is a more effective way to teach children to read than is embedded phonics or no phonics instruction. They found that phonics had particularly strong benefits for students of low socio-economic status.